For years, Anita Flores carried shame: She was a second-generation half-Peruvian who barely spoke any Spanish. She pretended she didn’t care: She muddled through D’s in Spanish class and avoided her paternal family in Lima. Then, her father was diagnosed with dementia, and everything changed.
As a caretaker, Anita took her dad to doctor’s visits and stocked his apartment with necessities. Their relationship wasn’t strained, but it was increasingly focused on logistics. It was often difficult to have real conversations.
When she started to speak to him in Spanish, though — haltingly, at first — she saw him light up. He might have difficulty, in English, telling her what he’d had for lunch that day, but in Spanish he could go into detail about meals he’d enjoyed more than 50 years ago.
For the first time in her life, Spanish wasn’t an academic obligation or a source of embarrassment. It was a way to communicate. To connect.
In this episode, Anita tells the story of her relationship to her father, and to his mother’s tongue. It’s a winding journey that takes place over 15 years, centered on three trips to Lima. Along the way, like many heritage language learners, she finds frustration and discomfort in the Spanish language. But as Anita grew older, she realized language helps you narrow physical distances, strengthen ties — and preserve memories.
Featured photo courtesy of Anita Flores.